By Daphne Saunders, BA Global Liberal Arts
A green energy system is possible, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. More than possible, it is unquestionably necessary and beneficial to all. It is the cheapest energy source that provides the most jobs. Don’t just be worried by the enormity of the problem, be angry. Because whilst we know we need radical change fast, it is not happening. Emissions are higher than ever before and rising. 1.5°C degrees is off the table. Despite efforts, the mechanisms needed are failing.
But I repeat, a green energy system is possible, we know what we need to do, therefore how are we so resigned to our fate? Why is the climate crisis such an unpopular conversation? Met with a hopeless and slightly anxious sigh that usually says ‘yup we’re screwed, no point talking about it.’
How are we so resigned when we have the answers?
1.2 billion predicted climate refugees by 2050,
an eighth of all animal and plant species threatened with extinction,
and the worse felt by those who have caused the least damage.
This is the fate we are resigned to?
I want to say, I will not represent these facts in the abstract. The way the climate language of decimal temperature points and ‘tipping points’ dulls the imagination for compassion. Numbers of displaced refugees have names and faces, decimal points mean lives, and species extinction means bleaching our world of a kaleidoscope of cohabitors. Feel it, don’t think it.
“‘We have the answers in our hands and the clock is ticking,’ yet it is not us that are failing to implement them.“
So yeah it’s all very worrying, but there’s hope, we have the answers. That’s why this article isn’t about why you should be worried, it’s about why you should be angry. Angry because as the UN Secretary-General said last month, ‘we have the answers in our hands and the clock is ticking,’ yet it is not us that are failing to implement them. Angry because in his words ´we are on the highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator,’ but we, the global majority, are in the backseat.
Because here’s the thing: it’s not our fault but it’s our problem.
I think the reason we are so resigned to this, why it is not a popular conversation, is manyfold. Firstly, understandably but fatally, our instinct is: Run away from existential angst, or die trying…
Secondly, it feels as though there’s nothing to be done, we can’t be angry because we ourselves depend on oil and gas. You and I in the UK are living one of the highest carbon-emitting lives on the planet but with our hands tied behind our backs.
Whilst greenwashing advertisements will parade an ever-superficial array of products convincing you that it is your responsibility to buy now on sustainability, and whilst the desire to do so is needed, we are all painfully aware that a bamboo toothbrush is not going to save us.
Placing the responsibility on the consumer is a neat way to get us to feel guilty and avoid thinking about the structural changes we need.
Yet on the other side of the spectrum, it feels hypocritical to blame the oil companies and governments that we rely on. How can you be angry at something that you yourself consume every day? Something that has become almost as necessary as air? All whilst wanting energy bills to go down. Yet you have no choice. Our world cleverly makes abstractions of climate threat and responsibility, so anger becomes worry, blame becomes self implication, and hope becomes fatalism.
We must not let this narrative continue. We must not resign ourselves because
we feel it is the inevitability of the way we live. A green future is possible, its failure is not our fault, and governments and the super-rich should pay.
Whilst oil companies rake in billions in profit, subsidised by hundreds of millions of taxpayer’s money a week in the UK alone, people are struggling to heat their homes, and live the consequences of the climate crisis around the world. It is pure insanity that at COP27 world leaders were incapable of discussing the source of the problem. The concluding text did not even mention reducing fossil fuels. We remain in the grips of the interests of oil money and political weakness.
Whilst 50% of the world population consumes 7% of total emissions, the UK military and defence sector alone produces more carbon emissions than 60 countries combined. These are not fixed by personal changes, they are structural.
Thus is the bleak picture of the system that forces us to burn in order to breathe. Whilst we have been robbed of the determination of the way we live, we must not let this consumer blaming, climate-reality-diluting narrative rob us of our clarity and our anger. Because it destroys our strongest assets: our rage, our hope and our solidarity. Without them, we are lost.